After a scant summer, autumn is beginning to show on the Mornington Peninsula with brisk mornings, light rain and the smell of fireplaces tinting the air as we walk along the Red Hill Trail at dusk.
I am always excited for a change in season because it brings an opportunity to reflect, reevaluate and move forward at a different pace to the months just past. Especially as we transition into the cooler months we tend to slow down, turn inward, and rest unlike any other time of year.
As Jana Brunclikova so beautifully writes in The Secret Kitchen Book, “The amount of light in our days are shifting, and gradually getting smaller. This is our cue to prepare for the winter and light the flame within us.”
As Jana alludes in this passage, autumn is a time to shed that which no longer serves us and begin to preserve and prepare in anticipation of winter.
Whereas summer is so full of lightness and frivolity, I feel autumn is such an opportune time to reconnect with physical and emotional needs and the natural environment.
Perhaps you, too, are feeling the pull of the new season? Here are some suggestions for self-care, nourishment and slowing down this autumn…
*A note on mood board images: each image is linked to its respective source unless it is our own or a stock image.
In her article for Bustle, Kirsten Nunez writes
“Autumn represents the preservation of life and its basic necessities. During this time, animals prepare for the winter by storing food and creating cozy hibernation spaces. Farmers work on their fall harvest by collecting a reserve of crops. We also tend to retreat indoors and focus on cultivating a safe and comforting home. In a way, the autumn season offers us a chance to reconnect with ourselves as we preserve our safe havens.”
Most of us in Australia are blessed with accessibility to good food all year round. Though there is no real need to prepare or store for the winter, preparing fermented foods and preserves is a special way to use local and seasonal produce, practice ancient fermentation techniques and nourish the body (the benefits of fermented foods are numerous).
Here is a sauerkraut recipe found in The Secret Kitchen Book book...
Sauerkraut with a memory of home
- 1 cabbage head (red or white)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 turmeric root (grated)
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon dulse flakes
- Handful of caraway seeds
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and save for later.
Finely shred the remaining cabbage using a mandolin or 2mm food processor blade.
Add the salt and massage the cabbage until juice appears.
Set aside for 10 minutes then repeat the massage until the cabbage is very juicy.
Mix in the remaining ingredients.
Pack the mixture firmly into a large jar, pressing down until liquid rises above it. Place the reserved outer cabbage leaves on top of the jar and secure with a saucer on top. It’s best to use a weight on top of the saucer such as a heavy plate or jar of water.
Place a clean tea towel over everything.
Allow the krauts to ferment in a warm dark place for at least a week or up to 2 weeks. The longer you leave the mixture the more sour it will become.
Once ready, store in sealed glass jars in the refrigerator for several months.
It sounds silly but ever since the weather began to change down here I’ve had a persistent craving for chestnuts. A few years ago we camped with friends in Gippsland on a beautiful farm beside a creek which was littered with prickly fallen chestnuts.
I was so determined to roast them on the campfire as growing up in Queensland I had only ever eaten chestnuts from street vendors in Melbourne and listened to stories of my parents harvesting and eating them when living in Austria.
Needless to say chestnuts have a distinct autumnal association and, with a carbohydrate content comparative to wheat and rice, they fulfil our body’s natural inclination for warmer, richer, more nourishing foods in the cooler months.
Autumn is a time to embrace root vegetables, legumes, soups and slow cooked meals.
Here are a few warming recipes on high rotation at our place… (I promise these have been tried and tested many a time and they’re really delicious).
Alison Roman’s Spicy White Bean Stew With Broccoli Rabe Recipe
Running on Real Food’s Coconut and Red Lentil Dahl
Cookie and Kate’s Minestrone Soup
- Minimalist Baker’s Vegan Palak Paneer with Curried Tofu
As difficult as it is in the depths of a chilly autumn and winter to bare all, dry brushing daily helps to increase blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. As the epidermis is the largest eliminative organ in our body, this practice also aids in detoxification which is important as we tend to turn inward and slow down in the cooler months.
Follow dry brushing with a long, warm soak in the bath using revitalising salts to relax the muscles, and essential oils to evoke a sense of calm.
If you find yourself scrolling on your phone when you take a bath try to leave your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and outside the room (I’m guilty of this too). Turn down the lights and light a candle. Be fully present and immerse yourself in the experience and deep relaxation.
After bathing, massage your skin with natural oils to keep your skin supple and hydrated.
As autumn is a time of reflection and re-connection, self-care practices like dry brushing, bathing and self massage with natural oils allows us to feel more grounded and connected with ourselves.
As the women of Stass & Co profoundly share, “my daily rituals allow me to share from a deep place of embodiment. Every day, with my hand on my heart, I ask my body what it truly needs. Then, in that connected space, I softly come back to myself, and listen. From here, we can repair, grow and expand.”
Autumn is a time for reflection and deep introspection. As Jana writes,
“Autumn is the season where our metaphorical tides begin to pull out everything hiding on the muddle surface is revealed. Before we delve into our deepest introspection, this is your time to clear away the truths you’ve been running from.”
If your intention is to look inward, face truths and seek clarity, then journaling is a practical and accessible way to reflect upon past and present events, ruminate on thoughts, nut-out issues or even bring to consciousness niggling yet latent thoughts and feelings.
Find time alone
Seek solitude — at home, on a walk or immersed in nature — where you can be alone with your thoughts without the distractions of technology or others.
This is perfectly described in the Hustle Escape article, The Dying Art of Being Alone With Your Thoughts, “time alone with our thoughts is a time to reflect and regenerate. Solitude activities, like walking, meditating, and breaks alone, not only help us foster higher levels of creativity, productivity and self-reflection, but also help us recover physically and mentally."
"To fully embrace the benefits of solitude, we must recognise that work and rest function in tandem – and that certain forms of solitude are particularly potent forms of rest. In our hectic lives, we are all looking to work optimally, but we should also spend more time considering how to rest optimally. Time alone with our thoughts is the optimal place to begin.”
Forest bathing or ‘shinrin-yoku’ is a Japanese practice of immersion in the forest atmosphere. It is an enriching, calming form of solitude.
Qing Li writes for Time, “[forest bathing] is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.”
As the landscape evolves into deep, earthy palettes, autumn provides an obvious reminder of nature’s beauty and a clear prompt to reconnect with the earth’s cycles.
Just as we tend to our health through wholesome foods and the mind through practices like journaling, solitude and meditation, we can rest and restore the body through gentle movement. Here are some more restorative exercises for autumn…
“It’s slower and more meditative [than other styles of yoga like vinyasa or Ashtanga], giving you space to turn inward and tune into both your mind and the physical sensations of your body. Because you’re holding poses for a longer period of time than you would in other traditional types of yoga, yin yoga helps you stretch and lengthen those rarely-used tissues while also teaching you how to breathe through discomfort and sit with your thoughts.” - Amanda Tarlton writes for Mind Body Green
Even more languorous than yin (which, to be honest, I find more challenging than vinyasa anyway) is restorative yoga. Restorative yoga avoids any discomfort and is truly passive, often with the support and addition of bolsters, blocks and blankets to ensure complete comfort.
If you experience muscle micro-trauma from exercise or have consistent tension, cork rollers can be used to release tight muscles and increase blood flow to muscles to aid recovery. Traditionally massage has been used for this (myofascial release), but cork rolling allows for us to self-release as part of a recovery and self-care routine.
We Are Meg describes how to use a cork roller, “Start slowly, rolling along the length of the muscle. Pause on any tight spots and gradually increase the pressure. Speed up to get the blood flowing and slow down to break down tight muscle fascia. It should be uncomfortable but stop if you feel any pain.”
These are just a few of the self-care practices and routines that we find impactful as we move into the cooler months. We need to remember it’s ok to slow down and honour what your body needs at this time.
We would love to hear how you wind down in autumn.